Tag Archives: tennis

Jordanne Whiley: going for double-gold at the Paralympics

Jordanne Whiley is a Paralympian, eight time Grand Slam champion and Britain’s most decorated female tennis player of all time. She was born with osteogenesis, more commonly know as brittle bone disease.

In this blog she talks about her hopes for Rio and why she wants to show young people that no matter what your background, or how you look, you can achieve anything.

My love for tennis started when I was three

I had my first leg break when I was three months-old and I had my last one at 12 years-old. In between that I had about 26 breaks. When I was three, my dad took me out to Israel because he was competing in a tennis tournament. I was in a wheelchair with my legs in plaster at the time. I didn’t think I’d be able to play but my dad’s friend gave me a racket and ball and I just started hitting it. Then it was all over Israeli news! I got a trophy from the tournament too. It all just kicked off after that.

I became professional around the time I was 16. Before that, I was part of the Tennis Foundation performance programme and I’d won national championships but not at a professional level. I was at school and I wasn’t sure if I was going to carry on with tennis or go into further academic studies. Then I qualified for the Beijing Paralympics on my sixteenth birthday, which was a nice surprise! So I went to Beijing and when I came back I quit academic studies and became a professional tennis player.

People care about the Paralympics a lot more now

In Beijing tickets weren’t sold and people were told to come and watch the Paralympics and told when to clap. Four years later, in London, there was an arena with 17,000 people who turned up to watch my bronze medal match. In just four years, that’s pretty incredible! I’m hoping that Rio will do just as well.

The sport has changed massively too. I’d say that wheelchair tennis is up there as one of the most successful Paralympic sports. The top ten men and women in the world are just a ridiculous standard. It’s actually world class tennis not just “disabled people playing tennis”. Some wheelchair tennis players have got fantastic profiles for themselves.  My own profile has shot up since London 2012.

Jordanne on the court, about to hit the ball

I want to be a role model for young people

When I was growing up, I didn’t really have any role models to look up to. I don’t like looking up to celebrities because I don’t know them. If I looked up to anyone, I’d want them to be a real person. I had my dad for a lot of it. He was my coach until I was 12 and both my parents were very supportive of my career. But it was just me and them for a very long time.

I want to be a real role model to people. I don’t own Bentleys and live in an 80 room mansion – I’m just a real person. I’m very successful in what I do but I’ve been through struggles. Paralympians have a good opportunity to become those kinds of role models. And I do look up to other Paralympians myself.

The bigger my profile gets, the more chance that people will listen to me. So when I’m trying to influence young girls to stop worrying about their body and get on with their lives, I’m more likely to have more impact. That’s what really drives me. I’m not interested in becoming famous, I just want to influence young people.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what background you’re from, what shape and size you are, you can still be successful. You don’t have to look a certain way to fit into society.  And if people think badly of you, you don’t need them in your life.  I know the people around me will always support me and accept me for who I am.

The Paralympics can change attitudes towards disability

The Paralympics definitely have the ability to change attitudes towards disability. You do have the group of people who think the Paralympics is just a load of disabled people playing sports, “Aww, let’s give them a chance!” but then there are other people who have seen it who are like “Actually, these people are world class athletes. Their disability doesn’t mean anything.” People making judgements should just watch some of it. They will be amazed at what they see.

It’s difficult because a lot of people don’t know what wheelchair tennis is. It’s really sad because it’s such a brilliant sport.  As well as that, you have fun, the social life is great and you meet so many different people. It really helps you become comfortable with your impairment as you meet loads of different disabled people. It can really help you accept yourself.

My hopes for Rio

Training is going really well. I’m definitely in a good position for Rio. A lot of people, including myself, know that I can go for double gold. I don’t want to let anyone down. I know I’ve got it in me to win two golds which is exciting. I just need to go out and play my best. I’ve trained for this for four years!

Visit the ParalympicsGB website to find out more.

Jordanne was one of our #30toWatch in our 30 Under 30 campaign. Find out more about Jordanne’s life and career

Photo credits: Header image courtesy of RKGsecond image courtesy of The Tennis Foundation.

Meet Britain’s most decorated female tennis player of all time – Jordanne Whiley

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Jordanne Whiley is a Paralympian, eight time Grand Slam champion and Britain’s most decorated female tennis player of all time. She was born with osteogenesis, more commonly know as brittle bone disease.

With Rio 2016 fast approaching, Jordanne is training hard in the hopes of getting double gold. As part of 30 Under 30, she talks about how she got into tennis, role models and her other passion in life, singing.

When I was three years old, my dad took me out to Israel because he was competing in a tennis tournament. I was just going out with my mum and he was playing a match one day and I just wanted to play tennis but obviously I couldn’t. My dad’s friend gave me a racket and ball and I just started hitting it. Then it was all over Israeli news and newspapers. Basically, it all just kicked off  because I was three, in a wheelchair with my legs in plaster playing tennis.

I became professional around the time I was 16. I’d just qualified for Beijing Paralympics and I wasn’t expected to but I got the wild card. I actually qualified on my sixteenth birthday so that was a nice surprise! When I came back I quit academic studies and became a professional tennis player.

Tennis is such a great game. You have fun and the social life is great. It really helps you become comfortable with your impairment as you meet loads of different disabled people. It can really help you accept yourself.

Role Models

When I was growing up, I didn’t really have any role models to look up to. I don’t really like looking up to celebrities and people like that because I don’t know them. They could turn out to be something they’re not.

If I looked up to anyone, I’d want them to be a real person, not a celebrity. For example, I had my dad for a lot of it, he was my coach until I was 12 and both of my parents were very supportive of my career. It was kind of like just me and them for a very long time.

Some people say I’m contradicting myself because they think I’m a celebrity role model. But I don’t see myself as that. I don’t own 300 Bentleys and live in an 80 room mansion, I’m a real person. What I say and what I do is always from a real person’s point of view. I’m not interested in becoming famous, I just want to influence, help and inspire people.

Jordanne, a young disabled woman, looks determined whilst holding a tennis racket
Photo courtesy of RGK

Being comfortable in your own skin

I’m disabled and don’t look like Paris Hilton but I’m successful. It doesn’t matter who you are, what background you’re from, what shape and size you are, you can still be successful. You don’t have to look a certain way to fit into society.

Don’t dwell on things you can’t change and focus on the things you can change, like your success in your field or your attitude towards other people or yourself. I would like to help people see that.

If you listen to my story, I was bullied in school quite badly, I never grew to five foot and I don’t have nice legs. But I don’t worry about any of that because I can’t change that. When you do put that to one side and just focus on the things that matter, it’s so much better. Just focus on doing something you love. You might want to dance but you don’t think you’ve got the body to dance. If that’s what makes you happy, just go and dance. Who cares what people think?

Life outside of tennis

Monday to Friday, I train from about 10am-4pm. I get home late evening and then I’m pretty knackered to be honest! I do cook and bake a lot and if I have the time, I do grow my own vegetables. I just like doing normal, domestic stuff.

I’ve sung my whole life. There’s videos of me as a kid singing Spice Girls when I was five or six. When I was in my teens, I was obsessed with Shakira so I only used to sing her songs. As I grew up and my voice developed, it developed like Shakira’s voice! I’d really like to get into singing a bit more as I love it.

I wrote my own song about my boyfriend. For Christmas he bought me a package to go and record it professionally and put it on iTunes. It turned out a lot better than I thought it would. The song is actually really good. It’s kind of similar to Lukas Graham’s “Seven Years”. It’s not mushy, it’s about a real life relationship.

Keep a look out for Jordanne’s track on iTunes.

Jordanne is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Read other stories from 30 Under 30.

To find out more about stories and how they are at the heart of everything we do at Scope, visit our new Stories hub.

Featured image courtesy of The Tennis Foundation.